There May Be a Connection Between Crohn’s Disease and Mesothelioma

Consider yourself fortunate if you don’t have mesothelioma despite exposure to asbestos at some point in your past. But your good fortune might not hold if you currently have Crohn’s disease.

Researchers think Crohn’s disease with transmural inflammation may be a precursor of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It’s believed to occur when pro-inflammatory mediators overwhelm anti-inflammatory mediators.

In other words, Crohn’s disease is a response to inflammation. So is mesothelioma. Indeed, it has been previously observed that some Crohn’s disease sufferers experience a mesothelial reaction that looks very much like peritoneal diffuse malignant mesothelioma.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont, wondered if that similarity might mean something.

So they set off to investigate the clinicopathological characteristics of patients who have both peritoneal malignant mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease.

Patients with Peritoneal Mesothelioma and Inflammation

For this investigation, the researchers consulted a database of approximately 3,800 patients stricken with peritoneal mesothelioma. They used it to find patients who also were diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel condition.

Out of those 3,800, they identified exactly three peritoneal mesothelioma patients who met the search criteria. The specific inflammatory bowel condition they had was Crohn’s disease.

The three were between the ages of 56 and 65. Two were women. All three had Crohn’s disease for a minimum of three years.

The type of mesothelioma in two of the three patients was epithelioid. The other patient’s mesothelioma was of the biphasic type.

The researchers confirmed that these patients had transmural inflammation attributable to Crohn’s disease.

However, their study was not structured to explore the role this inflammation plays in helping to kick-start malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. They suggested that it should be considered in the future.

Crohn’s Disease Has Interesting Parallels to Mesothelioma

The parallels between mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease are interesting. The researchers listed some of them.

For one, genetics are a factor in whether or not you will develop mesothelioma. The same appears to be true for Crohn’s disease.

For another, mesothelioma requires an environmental trigger – namely, exposure to asbestos. Crohn’s disease requires an environmental trigger as well, except it isn’t asbestos.

Similarities aside, there is a major distinction between mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease. It is that Crohn’s Disease symptoms often disappear for a time. Not so with mesothelioma.

In case you’re not familiar with Crohn’s disease, the primary symptoms are chronic abdominal pain and diarrhea. Sometimes symptoms are intensified when blockage of the bowels occurs.

Add to this rectal bleeding and fever. Put it all together and Crohn’s disease patients experience significant discomfort, reduced quality of life, depression and stress.

Crohn’s disease most commonly affects the small bowel and the colon together. In a little less than one-third of the cases it affects just the small bowel. In one-fifth of the cases, it affects just the colon.

The disease is usually treated first with medications and a special diet. The last resort is surgery. Surgery is not a cure for Crohn’s disease. Its only role is to control the symptoms.

The researchers published their findings about mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease in the August 2, 2016, online issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathology.